What’s in a name? Plenty, actually

An honest and relatively unbiased look at some of the best and worst sporting team names

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the team they support.

Glamorous. Blue-collar. Perennial underdogs. Erratic.

And then there’s the head-scratching choices. Seriously? That team? Oh dear.

Your team name can also be a proud source of identification or a reason to be laughed at in public, often by members of your own family.

Team names are important. If you’re lucky, your team has a cool-sounding name or at least a dangerous animal. Maybe your team doesn’t have the most inspiring name (such as a noun) but whatever, it’s how they play that counts, right?

Worst case scenario is your team has a name that actually sucks. In this case, finding another team to support is a viable option.

We’ll start with the positives. Points are awarded for names that evoke strength, speed and power – useful traits in most sports, except for darts or the Olympic walk.

These typically include any creatures that scare humans because they will eat us, kill us or at least send us to hospital.

Names that give a nod to the uniqueness of the team’s region and history will also be rewarded.

Scary animals

There are literally dozens of these in sports around the world with the same creatures often popping up in different sports.

Big cats tick all the boxes. They look cool, can eat humans and are athletic. Simply a race to get in and bags one first.

Detroit Lions (American football), British Lions (rugby) and the Brisbane Lions (Australian football) got in quickly.

Think Motor City Detroit, think steamy jungles? Anyway, the Detroit Tigers (baseball), Wests Tigers (Australian rugby league), Richmond Tigers (Australian football) and Hanshin Tigers (Japanese baseball) all snared one of the cooler big cats. The Cincinatti Bengals cleverly found a name loophole to get a tigerish mascot for themselves.

You might argue the next felines are just a poor man’s lion or tiger but come face to face with a hungry one in the wild and you’ll learn some respect.

Penrith Panthers (Australian rugby league), Carolina Panthers (American football), Jacksonville Jaguars (American football) are all fearsome in their own right so these mascots get a pass mark.

Australian football’s Geelong Cats fails in a feeble attempt to join in with the scarier predators, unless you have a savage cat allergy or don’t want your furniture being scratched.

Aside from cats are there are the other creatures that project strength and danger and also look good on logos. As long they can kill or maim a human or at the very least are near the top of their food chain.

Hello to you, Cronulla and San Jose Sharks (Australian rugby league, ice hockey), Chicago Bears and Bulls (American football / basketball), plus any team with an eagle, hawk or predatory bird gets a nod.

Historically and regionally relevant

Milwaukee Brewers (American baseball), well done.

Think baseball, think summer. Hot. Beer – nice.

Milwaukee has been home to major beer breweries for centuries, so the regional relevance box is ticked.

Before any party poopers start harping on about not linking alcohol to sport, this is baseball we’re talking about.

English football team Arsenal are called The Gunners after workers at an ammunition factory founded the team.

A well – aimed cannon shot could sink a ship which is very destructive, therefore impressive. Violent and regionally relevant, good work Arsenal.

Also from the EPL are the West Ham “Hammers”. Not just Hammers from West Ham but the area’s dockworkers used steel hammers on the job in the ironworks. Hence the chant in games from fans of “Come on, you Irons!”

Detroit Pistons (basketball) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (American football) are a nod to their cities’ respective automotive and steelworks industries. If the cities were famous for processed cheese or diapers they’d have to look elsewhere, but pistons go up and down rapidly and steel is hard and strong.


Honorary mentions also go to the New England Patriots (American football) and the Philadelphia 76ers (basketball) for reminding the world of America gaining independence in 1776.

Australia rugby league team the Rabbitohs are generally thought to be named after, chuckle, rabbits. Of all the woosy, lily-livered animals to choose for a violent, body contact sport. But rabbitohs were (usually) men who caught and skinned rabbits then sold them on inner-city streets with the cries of “Rabbit Oh!”. Really.

Killing and skinning rabbits is nothing to be proud of and in no way intimidating. Good try but fail.

Dull nouns

With all the cool animal names being taken and nothing of historical or local importance to brag about, more recent sporting teams have had to resort to generally uninspiring noun names.

The best of these are related to weather – Melbourne Storm (Australian rugby league), Oklahoma City Thunder (basketball) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (ice hockey).

Then we have Heat, Magic, Avalanche and the rest. Most confusing is when a team relocates to another city but retains its name which was unique only to the original location.

So the New Orleans Jazz became the Utah Jazz. I don’t know about you but when I think of jazz I think of fun-loving bars with people tapping their feet, maybe sipping cocktails and enjoying their lives. Not strait-laced, polygamous, severe hair- cutted teetotalers.

Which leaves us with the bottom of the barrel.

The duds

These names either lack imagination, fail to inspire or are downright stupid and even creepy.

Lame efforts include the Philadelphia Phillies (baseball). Try harder Phillies. The allegedly famous Philly Cheese Steak would be better.

Ice hockey gives us the Ottawa Senators. Naming a team after politicians is as awe-inspiring as the Ottawa Parking Inspectors or Ottawa Auditors. The logo has a Roman soldier in armour but they’re only kidding themselves. Massive fail.

The Washington Redskins (American football) were pressured for years to think of a more culturally-sensitive name which they finally did in 2020. Instead of coming up with a new name however, they’re now simply called the Washington Football Team. Pathetic and lazy. You need something Washington. The Washington Georges perhaps.

Then we have a truly unfortunate name.

This is what you get for attempting to get a free ride on the success of a Hollywood blockbuster. Toronto got away with it by pinching Jurassic Park’s vicious velociraptors to become the Toronto Raptors.

The alien monster in Arnie’s 1987 hit “Predator” was unquestionably a tough, aggressive and lethal killing machine. Plus, in the animal kingdom the apex killers are predators. Surely a sporting powerhouse!

And yet, no.

Unfortunately since then the name has taken on more sinister connotations.

So when the newly formed Nashville hockey team decided to go with the Nashville Predators, their name was something nobody in their right mind wanted to display on a shirt. Not so much destructive aliens as 45 year old online perverts who live with their parents. Shudder.

Finally we have the “but why?” animals. Australian football and rugby league have the Crows and Magpies. Both birds are undoubtedly smart and undoubtedly massive pains in the arse.

If they’re not waking you up with mindless “Caw Caw Cawing” at 4:30 am, they’re divebombing children or picking through your rubbish.

Who wants to walk around with a logo of a crow on their shirt? Almost as bad as a predator.

Your team can reflect who you really are. If the team has a great or even average name, you can relax. But if your team has a poorly-conceived mascot then it might be time to change.

At the very least don’t get a crow or senator tattoo, even if they are number one.


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